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Seth Moulton's struggling presidential campaign caps Iowa State Fair candidate appearances

U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, a Democratic candidate for president, signs autographs Saturday at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. He was the last presidential candidate to speak at the fair this year. (Erin Murphy/Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau)
U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, a Democratic candidate for president, signs autographs Saturday at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. He was the last presidential candidate to speak at the fair this year. (Erin Murphy/Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau)
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By Erin Murphy, Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau

DES MOINES — The crowd was not nearly as big as what other candidates drew.

The news conference was far more sparsely attended.

The stroll through the masses was mostly unencumbered.

Such was the Iowa State Fair experience for Seth Moulton, the final Democratic presidential candidate to make his way to through the fairgrounds, and the only one to appear Saturday.

Moulton, 40, a congressman from Massachusetts, is polling at literally zero, according to Morning Consult’s latest data on the Democratic primary.

While a few dozen people came to hear Moulton speak at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox on Saturday, one of the fair’s busiest days, that crowd was far smaller than what other candidates drew the previous weekend.

Only a handful of reporters participated in Moulton’s post-Soapbox news conference.

And as he made his way through the fairgrounds, he was rarely stopped.

Moulton introduced himself to the couple standing in line with him at WHO-TV’s “Cast Your Kernel” booth, where fairgoers drop a corn kernel in the jar of the candidate they plan to support.

Moulton, like other candidates, took a turn and dropped a kernel in his jar, which had barely enough to cover the base.

“I understand that this is a crowded primary. But it’s also very, very early. And I think that talking about the horse race in August, months before anyone goes to a caucus location or goes to a poll, is not the best way to choose a nominee to take on Donald Trump,” Moulton told reporters.

“I get the fact that I’m an underdog. I’ve been an underdog before. America loves an underdog. That’s OK.”

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Like more than half of the expansive field of 23 candidates, Moulton is in danger of not qualifying for the next nationally televised debate. Moulton, who joined the race in April, did not qualify for either of the previous two debates,

Moulton said the debate qualification rules established by the national Democratic Party are more challenging for “underdog” candidates. He questioned whether the rules have produced the best method for selecting the party’s nominee for president and eventual challenger to Republican President Donald Trump.

Moulton said he could not predict whether failure to qualify for the next round of Democratic debates will prove a death knell for those campaigns.

“We’ve never been in this situation before, so we just don’t know. This is a new system that the party has set up that seems to care more about viral moments on social media than actually connecting with voters on the ground, like I’ve been doing here in Iowa,” said Moulton, who registered at zero percent in the most recent four polls in Iowa recorded at Real Clear Politics.

“But it is what it is,” Moulton said. “And I’m going to keep on fighting.”

• Comments: (563) 383-2492; erin.murphy@lee.net

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